Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Migrant Remittances and Household Division: The Case of Nang Rong, Thailand

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Migrant Remittances and Household Division: The Case of Nang Rong, Thailand

Article excerpt

Using data from the Nang Rong Projects social survey (N = 4,989), this work examines the effect of migrant remittances on household splits in an agrarian district of Thailand, a developing country experiencing tremendous economic, demographic, and social transformations. Results show that remittances sent from migrants (especially female migrants) to their origin households affect changes in household affiliation. Findings are consistent with a household allocation model, whereby money sent by migrant siblings significantly affects the movement of the migrant's sisters and their husbands into a new household. Results suggest that remittances are a significant determinant of household nucleation, especially in the latter stages of the Thai household life cycle. Results also suggest that rural Thais still follow traditional postnuptial residence patterns.

Key Words: Asian families, family process, farm families, living arrangements, rural families.

For many decades social scientists have investi- gated changes in family and household structures associated with the shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy (see Calhoun, 1919/1960; Laslett, 1965; Le Play, 1872/1982). During the industrialization process, many households expe- rienced changes in their composition whereby extended households split into nuclear house- holds. Nucleation results from the decline of intergenerational coresidence of parents and their adult children, and has been linked to changes brought about by a general process of economic development (Ruggles, 2007).

Throughout the world, as countries experience industrialization and development, young people leave their natal households to pursue work opportunities, many of which are centralized in urban areas located at a distance from rural origin communities. Acquiring wage positions allows migrating young adults to earn money, a portion of which is frequently sent to their rural origin households in the form of remittances. Remittances are a form of income that has the potential to change household formation processes of those who remain in rural areas.

In this study, I examine the effect of remittances on household division using contemporary longitudinal panel data from a sample of 4,989 young adults age 18-35 living in Nang Rong, Thailand. I focus on the generational structure and life-cycle pattern of household formation by examining individual Ufe course transitions resulting in new household arrangements. I improve upon many existing studies of household division (see, e.g., Hajnal, 1982; Rosenfeld, 2006) that focused exclusively on Western industrializing societies, or analyzed at an aggregate level, or both. In doing so, I link the literature on internal migration with the demographic literature on household change, an association that is rarely considered in empirical analysis.


Early theories of household change were formulated from historical studies of present-day developed countries. Explanations for household splitting stress either the rise in real income that made it affordable for people to forgo economies of scale represented by large households (Burch & Matthews, 1987; Michael, Fuchs, & Scott, 1980), ideational factors that led to a shift in social norms favoring separate living (Goldscheider & Lawton, 1998; Lesthaeghe & Surkyn, 1988), or demographic factors affecting the number of kin available for coresidence (Soldo, 1981; Wister & Burch, 1983).

Demographic analysis suggests that population dynamics (such as fertility decline) accounted for little of the change in intergenerational coresidence in the United States during the era of industrialization (Kramarow, 1995; Ruggles, 1994). Furthermore, because family norms are most likely a result of changes in residential behavior, it may be difficult to distinguish the change in attimdes that favor separate living from the economic conditions that brought them about. …

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